Each of our veterans has his or her own unique story to tell about their experiences in the U.S. armed forces. We are pleased to share a few of them with you.
(Chicago, IL) Although Walter Malinowski's older brother, Joseph, had served in Europe during WW II, Walter had no reservations about being drafted in 1952. "It was just something one had to do,” was his opinion. His only regret was that, in spite of a request for a deferral, he had to leave his company, Union Special just six months short of completing his training there as an engineer.
Basic Training in Camp Breckinridge, KY was uneventful with the exception of the fact that his company for some unknown reason had to repeat the training. That was ok with them because they already knew what to do. Next, Walter and four buddies were shipped to Ft. Mead, MD where they were supposed to receive special engineering training in locomotive school. They somehow ended up doing KP duty!
One day when Walter had a day off, he went to visit a nearby Army training center. After his cab dropped him off, he wandered around a couple of buildings till he found one with an unlocked door. As he entered he was stopped by an officer who asked him how he'd gotten in, "Well, through that door over there,” he said. It turned out that this was the only building in the complex that was being controlled with live ammo. The officer quickly escorted Walter to the building he'd been looking for.
When Walter located the officer in command, he introduced himself and asked if he'd be able to attend classes rather than doing KP duty. The response was that instead of being a student, Walter would be taken on as a machine shop instructor because of his previous training! Things went well at first, but after a while, much to the chagrin of his Colonel, Walter saw a need to move on and requested a transfer to the Far East.
Crossing the Pacific was rather nice because, although it was a military ship, there were civilians on board as well. The Army personnel on board cooked and the Navy personnel supervised which resulted in Army sergeants doing most of the grunt work such as KP duty and scrubbing the floors. It all was carried out in good spirits. Walter recalls that since it was almost Christmas, his small Christmas tree was given a place of honor on top of a Sergeant's locker. Another Sergeant had received and brought a case of liquor on board which never was "detected" during much feared inspections. During one inspection, the officer in charge only did a very superficial sweep before he disappeared to visit with a long lost buddy.
Arrival in the Far East was interesting because when they arrived in Japan all soldiers were issued a new set of clothes and had to hand in their American gear. A few days later, the same routine was followed when they arrived in Pusan, Korea. It was all to prevent the spreading of infectious diseases. Next they were off to Seoul by train. Walter, as an engineer, noticed immediately that a narrow gauge track was used. He also observed that a large segment of the population lived in dire poverty and the people used every square foot of land to grow food, even the spaces between the railroad ties.
In Pusan, Walter and his four friends were assigned to work in a huge building where Korean workers overhauled train engines. They had a very good working relationship because the Korean supervisors spoke English and the Americans were impressed with the skills and ingenuity of their co-workers. For instance, on several occasions, severely bent engine frames were hauled up in a block and the workers would go underneath with torches, heat up the frame which then, by force of gravity, would straighten itself.
Walter and his buddies adapted to their new surroundings but they also had interesting discussions with the Korean workers on why American church members were allowed to drink alcohol while their Korean counterparts were not. The Americans who attended Korean services also wondered about how their confessions to priests, who didn't quite understand the English language, were interpreted. Walter also was very impressed by a grade school student who showed him his social studies book. It had a picture of Abraham Lincoln and the student and Walter discussed the concept of freedom.
The food from the central kitchen was especially good just after new supply ships had arrived with fresh meat, fruit, and vegetables. It was fun to share food with Korean kids because so many items were unknown to them and they were so eager to eat it all. Eventually, it was back to canned food and hoping a supply ship would show up soon. It was not all safety and pleasure, however. Occasionally snipers would shoot at the troops even though they could always guess when an attack was imminent because the farmers were suddenly not in their fields.
When Walter's tour was up, he returned state side, this time in bad weather and as a passenger on a creaking Liberty ship. At one time, it was rolling so badly that Walter from the deck could touch the ocean with his hand. On the bright side, since he crossed the dateline on his birthday, he got to celebrate two days in a row for the same year!
Walter was discharged from Ft. Carson, CO, where he received meal vouchers and a train ticket to go home. In Chicago, he took one week off and then returned to Union Special to complete the last six months of his interrupted engineer training. Shortly thereafter, he met his future wife, Sylvia, with whom he shared the rest of his life.
His car's license plate shows him to be a proud Korean War Veteran and the value of his service overseas can best be summed up in a note that an anonymous Korean left on his windshield, " ... I am Korean and I cannot imagine living a good life without America's intervention. From the bottom of my heart, Thank You”, signed only with the initials, "J. G."
Welcome home, Walter and thank you for your service! Enjoy your well-deserved and long awaited Honor Flight.